Monday, 19 August 2019

Angie's disk

I found a 5 1/4 inch floppy labelled "Angie's disk", so I wondered what was on it. But none of my computers have 3 1/2 inch diskette drives, let alone 5 1/4.

I went up to the attic, and heaved down an ancient AST 386 with both kinds of diskette drive; I remember this computer well, at the time is was my best computer, used for compiling Doctor Solomon's Antivirus Toolkit. But it needed a mono monitor, not one of the VGAs that we use today.

So I went to the shed and dug out a couple of monitors. One was labelled as not working (so why did I keep it?) and the other had a label that had deteriorated with time and was unreadable. Sure enough, neither of them worked.

Back up to the attic, where I had another mono monitor stashed away, this one labelled as "working". Hurrah! And when I connected it to the AST, it all worked.

Except that the AST had been unused so long, the cmos battery was dead and it had lost its setup. I opened it up, and some genius had written the number of cylinders, heads and sectors on the case of the hard drive. So I set it up for that, and it booted up to Dos.

All the files on the hard drive were still there, dated 27 years ago. And the floppy drives worked, so I was able to see what was on the diskettes.

There was Alley Cat, which had been a favourite game of both the girls (but it needed CGA), there were several other games thatneeded CGA, but there were a few that worked on my mono monitor, such as "Funnels and buckets", a game for exercising your mental arithmetic.

But there wasn't anything there that is likely to work on a modern computer, plus both girls seem to have defected to the Apple camp.

So, with a sigh, I put the computer and monitor away.

You never know when you might need a 27 year old computer and monitor.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Hurrah for DOS

I have a Western Digital 200 gb drive that I suspect of being bad, so I wanted to test it. The Seagate drive test didnt help, nor the Maxtor. Obviously, I need a Western Digital drive test.

Google to the rescue; I easily found DOSDLG.exe. But it has to run under Dos.

So I burned it to a CD, and burned Freedos to a CD. I booted from the Freedos CD, and swapped the CDs.

Freedos thought that the Freedos CD was still in place.

Several minutes later, I decided that I wasn't going to be able to change its mind. And I couldn't add the WD diags to that CD, because it was burned as an iso.

So I dug out an old 3 1/2 floppy drive (remember those?) to connect to the test computer, and I found an old bootable Dos disk, and that booted up OK.

But then that didn't recognised the CD drive which had the WD diags on. So I thought, OK, I have to copy the WD Diags to a floppy, but I don't have a working computer with a floppy drive; I stopped using floppies yonks ago. So, I thought, no problem, I'll take a computer apart and add a floppy drive.

This was getting ridiculous. You know the situation where you're trying to solve a small problem, but to do that you have to solve a bigger problem, which entails solving an even bigger problem ...

So I stopped and had a think.


So I formatted a USB drive to FAT-32, and installed Dos on it using Rufus.exe (find it with Google). Then I copied the WD diags program to it. I told the test computer to boot from the USB drive, which it did, and then I was able to run the WD diagnostics program.


Saturday, 3 August 2019

Rsync trick

I was trying to rsync from one computer to another. The destination was Fedora 30, the current version. The source was fedora 1, a ten year old version. And rsync complained about a protocol mismatch, and much googling, trial-and-error and brain-sweat didn't give me an answer.

So I played a trick on it. I used nfs to mount an export from the old computer, to a temporary directory on the new computer. Then I could rsync just fine, because as far as rsync was concerned, it was from Fedora 30 to Fedora 30.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

The Public library

In 1919, the Public Libraries Actcreated public libraries

50 year later, I started reading my way through the Stamford Hill public library. I started in the Children's section; Edith Nesbit, Arthur Ransome, Captain W E Johns, Hugh Lofting and on and on.

The on to the adults library non-fiction - I persuaded the Librarian that books on maths and physics were unlikely to currupt my pure soul, so I rampaged through the Humour section (Jerome K Jerome, George Mikes and P G Wodehouse). Then on to the main fiction section.

I persuaded the librarian that I needed ten tickets, so that I could take out ten books per week. Then I discovered that I could get the bus to Tottenham Library, and get another ten tickets. And the the Hackney Library. And tickets from one of those, could be used in the others. I was taking my sister's old push chair each time I visited the library, to haul away my selections.

My education was partly at school, and partly in the public libraries.

I'm very sad that cuts in funding are leading to so many of them closing.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Setting up a Netgear wifi access point

I have an ancient Netgear access point in my spares cupboard, and I needed an additional access point, so I got it out and tried to configure it.

The problem was, the Netgear box was so old, that the https encryption methods that it could use, are all so old that current browsers don't use them. And it refused to be accessed via http.

I tried Firefox and Chrome. No luck.

So I had a bit of a think. What I needed was an old browser. So, using Google, I found Firefox 38 and installed that; installation was easy, and didn't mess up my current Firefox. And that worked - I was able to access and configure the Netgear, and it is now sitting quietly in an area that gives wifi coverage to a part of the house that was previously uncovered.

It turned out, I needn't have done it. I also have a Buffalo wifi access point (I have a story about that, see below) which still works, and I bought another TP-Link on eBay for £12,a nd I also have a wifi repeater that will also work as an access point. And the Siemens wifi AP that I thought had failed, just needed reconfiguring. An embarrassment of riches.

So, the story about the Buffalo.

A long time ago, I had my leased-line access (2 megabits) terminating in the house, and most of the servers in the garage, which was a separate building several yards away. In order to join the garage servers to the in-house servers, I used two Buffalo wifi APs as a bridge, so that the two groups appeared as a single network, and I had a speed of 54 mbits between the two groups.

Later on, I strung a cat 5 overhead between the two buildings. Maybe I should have done that in the first place.

Words have consequences

So said Mr Abdullah A. S. Patel, an Imam from Bristol, when he questioned the Tory leadership candidates.

The candidates eagerly agreed, and promised to investigate Muslim-hatred in the Tory party.

But words do indeed have consequences. Here's some words from Mr Patel, advice for women.

 Here's Mr Patel's proposal for Israel - this is the same graphic that Naz Shah, the Labour MP shared, and which she subsequently apologised for as antisemitic.

In other tweets, he claims that British politicians are 'on the Zionists Payroll’. That "Zionists are "hiding behind the Holocaust".

But, as Mr Patel explained - words have consequences. Mr Patel has now been suspended from the school that he is deputy head of.

Yes. Words have consequences. And if you live in a glass house, don't throw stones.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Parliament Prorogue

Parliament closes for the holidays; this is normal and traditional, and nothing much happens while parliament is prorogued.

But the idea of proroguing parliament so that a government can push through an action while parliament isn't sitting, is very very bad.

In the British Constitution, parliament is sovereign. At the top of the tree. The main thing. If a government deliberately prorogues parliament in order to take an action, then they are doing so because they know that if parliament is sitting, then the action would not be allowed.

This is called a coup.

This is how the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire; instead of the Senate being the Main Thing, it was Julius Caesar - until he got milkshaked. And then it was Augustus, and his successors. It was the end of the republic. And this is also how the Nazi party converted a majority in the Bundestag, into a permanent dictatorship. It's the sort of action that one might expect in a banana republic.

No party should be allowed to do this, and I would hope that no-one will even try, because the fallout from such an attempt would make the current ding-dong over Brexit look like a food fight at the vicar's tea party.